A healthy pancreas is vital for digesting food and absorbing nutrients. After a meal, hormonal and nervous signals stimulate the production of pancreatic secretions and their release in the duodenum. Pancreatic secretions are rich in bicarbonate ions (to neutralize the acidity of the food mixture and gastric acid from the stomach) and enzymes such as proteases, amylase, and lipase (for digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, respectively).
To whom pancreatic elastase is addressed
The best and most reliable, non-invasive testing of the exocrine portion of the pancreas is the measurement of pancreatic elastase (PE) in the stool.
The measurement of stool pancreatic elastase is to confirm or rule out the insufficiency of the external portion of the pancreas in cases of:
- Unexplained diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Any pain in the upper abdomen
- Nutritional deficiencies (eg osteoporosis due to insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals)
- Food intolerance
It can also be used as an indicator to monitor the exocrine function of the pancreas in pathological conditions with involvement of the pancreas such as:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Diabetes mellitus
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease
- Pancreatic cancer
- Autoimmune pancreatitis
- After surgery on the pancreas or other parts of the gastrointestinal tract
More information on Pancreatic Elastase
Pancreatic elastase is an anionic endoprotease belonging to the serine protease family with a molecular weight of 26 kDa. Along with other digestive enzymes, it is synthesized as an inactive proenzyme in the alveolar cells of the pancreas and secreted into the duodenum. Upon activation, pancreatic elastase cleaves peptides at sites located after neutral amino acids. Pancreatic elastase binds mainly to bile salts during its intestinal passage and thus does not break down. In the stool, the concentration of pancreatic elastase is 5-6 times higher than in pancreatic fluid. Its concentration in the feces reflects the secretory capacity of the pancreas.